Zimmerman picks Merwin for open council seat

By a unanimous vote Monday, former City Council candidate Beth Merwin, of Zimmerman, was offered the seat of former Zimmerman City Council Member Greg Laney.

Merwin said she is pleased with the council’s decision and is eager to get started as Zimmerman’s newest council member. Laney resigned from his seat on the council in December due to work-related issues that compelled him to move out of Zimmerman.

The council voted in December to open the seat to applicants to fill the position as quickly as possible.

“We have received six applications for the vacant seat,” Mayor Dave Earenfight announced before asking the council for direction on how they wanted to proceed. The options before them were to conduct interviews with each candidate and vote on which one seemed most qualified or offer the position to the candidate who received the most votes in the 2012 election – Beth Merwin, in this case. Council Member Ron Mathison said all the candidates were excellent options, which made comparisons difficult.

“There’s not a bad one in the bunch,” he said.

Council Member Gary Clough agreed.

“In the interest of fairness and expedience, I think we should just offer the seat to Beth Merwin,” Clough suggested, “since she garnered the next highest votes after Laney in the election, and she is very qualified for the role.”

After the council voted unanimously to offer the seat to Merwin, City Administrator Randy Piasecki lent his perspective on the candidates.

“We’ve learned that we have some people who are very qualified and interested in their city,” he said, “and that is encouraging.”

John Kastner was the only applicant in attendance.

“Sure, I’m a little disappointed I didn’t get a chance to interview,” he said, “but I’m not surprised they offered the seat to Beth, and I feel it was fairly done.”

As for Merwin, she plans to get right to business, and as a Zimmerman business owner, the city’s lack of business troubles her, she said.

“I want to learn more about why we have this issue,” she said, “and see what we can do as a city to improve this situation.”

She said she’s looking forward to diving into her new role, becoming familiar with city policy and bringing to bear her reputation of accomplishing whatever she sets her mind to.

“I have a lot of learning to do,” she said, “but I hope to be a real asset to the city.”

Merwin will be sworn in during the Jan. 27 council meeting.

— Nathan Warner, contributing writer